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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
John 7

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 1-9

G. Jesus’ later Galilean ministry 6:1-7:9

This section of the text records the high point of Jesus’ popularity. His following continued to build, and antagonism continued to increase. This is the only section in John that narrates Jesus’ later Galilean ministry, which occupies so much of the Synoptic Gospels.

4. The responses to the bread of life discourse 6:60-7:9

Considerable discussion followed Jesus presentation of Himself as the Bread of Life. John noted the responses of many people who were following Jesus around, then the response of the Twelve, and finally the response of most of the Jews. What followed probably happened in the adjoining courtyard, or outside the synagogue, or perhaps inside after Jesus had concluded His discourse.

Verse 1

Opposition to Jesus had by now become so strong, particularly in Judea, that He chose to stay and minister around Galilee. This is a brief reference to Jesus’ later Galilean ministry that the Synoptics describe more fully. The Jewish leaders were continuing to lay plans for Jesus’ execution (cf. John 5:18). John noted their increasing hostility here and in the following chapters (cf. John 7:19; John 7:30; John 7:32; John 7:44; John 8:59; John 10:39; John 11:8; John 11:53).

Verses 1-9

The response of the Jews 7:1-9

"John 7 has three time divisions: before the feast (John 7:1-10), in the midst of the feast (John 7:11-36), and on the last day of the feast (John 7:37-52). The responses during each of those periods can be characterized by three words: disbelief, debate, and division." [Note: Ibid., p. 314.]

This section relates the reaction of another significant group of people to Jesus. They were the Jews generally, including Jesus’ brothers. The section also prepares the reader for the following presentation of Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem that happened at the feast of Tabernacles.

"In this Gospel Jerusalem is the storm-centre of the Messiah’s ministry, where He vindicates His claims before consummating His work by suffering outside its walls." [Note: Tasker, p. 101.]

Verse 2

The feast of Tabernacles occurred six months after Passover (John 6:4). That year it fell on September 10-17, A.D. 32. [Note: Hoehner, p. 143.] It was a fall grape and olive harvest festival (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:33-36; Leviticus 23:39-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15). In Jesus’ day it was the most popular of the three required Jewish feasts. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 8:4:1.] It commemorated the Israelites’ sojourn in the wilderness. Many devout Jews built temporary shelters out of branches and lived in them for the week to simulate the wilderness conditions in which their forefathers had lived.

Verses 3-5

Jesus’ half-brothers advised Him to go to the feast so His remaining disciples would continue to believe on Him and so more people would become His disciples. They evidently supposed that Jesus wanted as large a following as possible. They believed that He could perform miracles, but they did not believe that He was who He claimed to be. They encouraged Him to promote Himself, perhaps because they saw some advantage for themselves in His doing so. Satan had tempted Jesus similarly (Matthew 4:1-10). God’s plan for Jesus’ exaltation was different from theirs and involved the Cross. It is difficult to tell if these brothers spoke sincerely or sarcastically. Perhaps some were sincere and others were sarcastic.

Familiarity with Jesus did not and does not guarantee faith in Him (cf. Psalms 69:8). The way unbelievers plan to obtain glory for themselves is frequently contrary to God’s way of doing things (cf. Philippians 2:3-11). Two of these half-brothers were James and Jude who later became believers and wrote the New Testament books that bear their names (cf. Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7).

Verse 6

Jesus replied that it was not the right time (Gr. kairos) for Him to go to Jerusalem, the Father’s time (cf. John 2:4). However, they could go to the feast at any time (Gr. kairos). They were not on a mission and timetable from God as He was.

"John’s picture of Jesus is of one steadily moving on to meet his divinely appointed destiny." [Note: Morris, p. 352.]

Another interpretation is that Jesus meant that the time of His death was not yet at hand. However the Greek word that Jesus used when referring to His death and its consequences in John’s Gospel is always hora elsewhere, not kairos (John 2:4; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 12:23; John 12:27; John 13:1; John 17:1).

Verse 7

Jesus alluded to the opposition that awaited Him in Jerusalem. His brothers had no particular reason to be careful about when they went to the feast, but Jesus would be in danger when He went. They were part of the world, but Jesus did not belong to it (John 1:10; cf. John 15:18-21; John 17:14; John 17:16). Another reason for the Jews’ antagonism was Jesus’ convicting preaching that called for repentance and faith in Him. This verse contains the explanation for Jesus’ statement in the preceding verse.

Verses 8-9

Having offered His explanation, Jesus encouraged his brothers to go on to the feast without Him. Again He intimated that the Father was setting His agenda and He needed to follow it rather then their suggestion (cf. John 2:4). God’s immediate will for Him was to stay in Galilee.

The NIV "yet" has weak textual support, though it represents a valid interpretation. Many old Greek manuscripts do not contain it. Probably copyists added it to explain what Jesus meant since He did go to Jerusalem shortly after He spoke these words (John 7:10).

Verse 10

Jesus proceeded to Jerusalem shortly after his half-brothers did because the Father led Him to go then. He did not herald His arrival with great publicity, as His brothers had recommended, but went without fanfare. If He had gone sooner, the authorities would have had more opportunities to arrest Him (John 7:1).

Verses 10-13

1. The controversy surrounding Jesus 7:10-13

Verses 10-42

H. Jesus’ third visit to Jerusalem 7:10-10:42

This section of the text describes Jesus’ teaching in Jerusalem during the feast of Tabernacles and the feast of Dedication. John evidently included it in His narrative because it contains important revelations of Jesus’ identity and explains the mounting opposition to Jesus that culminated in His crucifixion.

Verse 11

Since John usually used the phrase "the Jews" to describe the Jewish authorities who were hostile to Jesus (cf. John 1:19; John 7:13; et al.), that is probably who was trying to find Him here. Their intentions seem pernicious.

Verses 12-13

Jesus was a controversial subject of conversation at the feast. He provoked considerable "grumbling" (Gr. goggusmos, cf. John 6:41; John 6:61). Many of the common people from Judea and pilgrims from elsewhere debated His ministry in private, however, suspecting that their leaders opposed Him. According to the Talmud, deceiving the people was a crime punishable by stoning. [Note: Blum, p. 299.] "The Jews" here clearly refers to Israel’s leaders.

This pericope provides background for Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem that follows. It helps the reader sense the atmosphere of public opinion in which Jesus then worked.

Verse 14

Toward the middle of the week Jesus began teaching publicly in the temple. This verse sets the scene for what follows immediately.

". . . all along the inside of the great wall which formed the Temple-enclosure ran a double colonnade-each column a monolith of white marble, 25 cubits high, covered with cedar-beams." [Note: Edersheim, 2:151.]

Verses 14-24

Jesus’ authority 7:14-24

Verses 14-44

2. Jesus’ ministry at the feast of Tabernacles 7:14-44

John presented this occasion of Jesus’ teaching ministry as consisting of three emphases: Jesus’ authority, His origin and destiny, and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 15

It was quite common for Jewish males to read and write. The people do not appear to have expressed amazement at Jesus’ ability to do that. The Judean Jews (cf. John 1:19) marveled at Jesus’ understanding of religious matters (cf. Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:22). They knew He had not had a formal theological education under the rabbis (cf. Acts 4:13).

"To the Jews there was only one kind of learning-that of Theology; and only one road to it-the Schools of the Rabbis." [Note: Ibid.]

Verse 16

Jesus responded by explaining that His knowledge had come from the One who had sent Him, namely, God the Father (cf. John 5:19-30). It had not come from Himself. He meant that His was not knowledge that He had dreamed up or arrived at through independent study. Jewish rabbis normally cited other rabbis as the sources of their information. Jesus avoided giving the impression that He was an inventive upstart, but He also implied that His teaching was not simply the continuation of rabbinic tradition. His teaching did not come from the rabbis or from self-study but directly from God.

"It is characteristic of many of the outstanding men of the Bible that they are convinced that they must do what they are doing, and say what they are saying, because they have received a divine commission." [Note: Tasker, p. 104.]

Verse 17

Jesus further claimed that the key to validating His claim that His teaching came from God was a determination to do God’s will. The normal way that the rabbis settled such debates was through discussion. However, Jesus taught that the key factor was moral rather than intellectual. If anyone was willing to do God’s will, not just to know God’s truth, God would enable that one to believe that Jesus’ teaching came from above (cf. John 6:44). The most important thing then is a commitment to follow God’s will. Once a person makes that commitment God begins to convince him or her what is true. Faith must precede reason, not the other way around.

"His hearers had raised the question of his competence as a teacher. He raises the question of their competence as hearers." [Note: Morris, p. 360.]

Jesus was not saying that the accuracy of our understanding is in direct proportion to our submission to God. Some very godly people have held some very erroneous views. There are other factors that also determine how accurate our understanding may be. He was not saying that if a person happens to do God’s will he or she will automatically understand the origin of Jesus’ teaching either. His point was that submission to God rather than intellectual analysis is the foundation for understanding truth, particularly the truth of Jesus’ teachings (cf. Proverbs 1:7).

"Spiritual understanding is not produced solely by learning facts or procedures, but rather it depends on obedience to known truth. Obedience to God’s known will develops discernment between falsehood and truth." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 84.]

Verse 18

The person who advances his or her original ideas will glorify self. That may not be his or her underlying motive, though it often is, but that will be the result. Conversely the one who advances the ideas of another ends up glorifying that person rather than himself or herself. Jesus claimed to do the latter and to desire the glory of the One who sent Him. That desire indicated His righteousness and made it unthinkable that He would be deceiving the people (John 7:12).

Verse 19

Jesus had claimed that God had given Him His teaching and that He proclaimed it faithfully as a righteous man. Now He contrasted His critics with Himself. They claimed that Moses had given them his teaching, but they did not carry it out faithfully as righteous men. Therefore it was incongruous that they sought to kill Jesus (cf. John 7:44-45). They accused Him of unrighteousness, but really they were the unrighteous ones. They sought to kill him even though Moses had taught that God’s will was to refrain from murder (Exodus 20:13). Obviously they had not submitted to God’s will that came through Moses. It is no wonder that they failed to understand Jesus’ teaching.

Verse 20

Many of Jesus’ hearers did not realize the depth of the animosity of Israel’s leaders toward Him. They naively thought He was crazy to think that someone was trying to kill Him. The Jews of Jesus’ day commonly thought of mental illness, in this case paranoia, as being demon-induced. This explains their reference to Jesus having a demon (cf. John 10:20). These people were not charging Jesus with getting His power from Satan, as others had (Matthew 9:34; Matthew 10:25; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; cf. Matthew 11:18). There are several cases of demon possession in the Synoptics, but there are none in John.

Verse 21

The one deed (lit. work, Gr. ergon, i.e., a miraculous work) that He had done to which Jesus referred was evidently the healing of the paralytic at the Bethesda pool (John 7:23; John 5:1-9). It had caused all who heard of it to marvel (John 5:10-18). It had begun the controversy about Jesus in Jerusalem.

Verse 22

The antecedent of "On account of this" or "Yet" (Gr. dia touto) is unclear. It could refer to what precedes. This interpretation would yield a translation such as "you all marvel because of this." [Note: Bruce, p. 177; J. N. Sanders, Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, p. 207.] However, John consistently placed this phrase first when he used it in other clauses. [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., p. 314.] Probably Jesus was referring to His healing of the paralytic (John 7:21) as representing God’s desire for physical wholeness.

Moses prescribed circumcision for the physical wellbeing of the Israelites as well as for other reasons (Leviticus 12:3). The Jews recognized this and consequently circumcised male infants on the eighth day following their births even if that day was a Sabbath. Normally observant Jews did no work on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ parenthetic reference to the fact that the circumcision legislation really began with the patriarchs and not Moses was probably a sleight depreciation of Moses. Jesus’ critics claimed to follow Moses faithfully, but in keeping the circumcision law they were not truly honoring him but Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14). Technically Moses only incorporated the circumcision law into the Mosaic Code, as he did many other older laws.

Verse 23

Jesus’ critics permitted an act on the Sabbath that resulted in the health of part of a person, and an infant at that, on the Sabbath. They should not, therefore, object to His healing a whole adult then. Moreover they performed circumcisions regularly on the Sabbath, but Jesus had only healed one man on one Sabbath. Circumcision was an operation designed to insure good health. The circumcised child was not even ill. Jesus on the other hand had healed a man who had suffered with a serious handicap for 38 years. Moreover circumcision was only a purification rite, but healing a paralytic involved deliverance from enslavement. Therefore it was unfair for Jesus’ critics to be angry with Him for what He had done.

The Jews had established a hierarchy of activities by which they judged the legitimacy of performing any work on the Sabbath (cf. Matthew 12:9-10). They based this hierarchy on necessary need, urgency. Jesus also operated from a hierarchical viewpoint, but He based His hierarchy on what was best for people (Mark 2:27).

"Had his opponents understood the implications of the Mosaic provision for circumcision on the Sabbath they would have seen that deeds of mercy such as he has just done were not merely permissible but obligatory. Moses quite understood that some things should be done even on the Sabbath. The Jews had his words but not his meaning." [Note: Morris, p. 362.]

Verse 24

Jesus concluded by warning His hearers against judging superficially (cf. Deuteronomy 16:18-19; Isaiah 11:3-4; Zechariah 7:9). Their superficial judgment about what was legitimate activity for the Sabbath had resulted in superficial judgment about Jesus’ work and person. He told them to stop doing that. They needed to judge on the basis of righteous criteria, what was truly right.

Verses 25-26

Though many of the Jewish pilgrims in the temple courtyard did not realize how antagonistic the religious leaders were to Jesus (John 7:20), some of the locals did. They marveled that Jesus was speaking out publicly and the authorities were not opposing Him. They expected that if Jesus were a deceiver they would lock Him up, but if He was the Messiah they would acknowledge Him as such. The authorities acted as they did because they feared the people. The situation led some of the locals to suspect that the leaders might really believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Verses 25-36

Jesus’ origin and destiny 7:25-36

Verse 27

The people of Jerusalem felt inclined to disbelieve that Jesus was the Messiah because they believed that their human Messiah’s origins would be unknown. This belief was a tradition. [Note: Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 8:7.] It was certainly not scriptural since the Old Testament clearly predicted that Messiah’s birthplace would be Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The common understanding of Jesus’ origin was that He grew up and had evidently been born in Nazareth. Not only did they fail to perceive His heavenly origin, but they were also wrong about His earthly origin. Indeed they did not know Him very well at all.

Verses 28-29

Whenever John described Jesus as crying out, an important public pronouncement followed (cf. John 1:15; John 7:37; John 12:44). Jesus said that His hearers did know Him. Probably He meant that they knew who He was superficially (cf. John 7:24) and knew that He had an earthly origin (John 6:42), but they knew less than they thought. Jesus was speaking ironically. They did not know the One who had sent Him, though Jesus did because He had come from that One.

The One who had sent Jesus was true (Gr. alethinos, real). Jesus meant that God really had sent Him regardless of what others might think about His origins. Unfortunately they did not know the One who had sent Him even though they prided themselves on knowing the true God (cf. Romans 2:17-19). They did not know God because they did not know their Scriptures (cf. John 5:46). They did not know Jesus because they did not know the Father who had sent Him. In John 7:16 Jesus disclaimed originality for his teaching, and here he disclaimed responsibility for his mission. [Note: Morris, p. 366.]

"He was once again claiming to be God! He was not simply born into this world like any other human; He was sent to earth by the Father. This means that He existed before He was born on the earth." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:317.]

Verses 30-31

Evidently those Jews who tried to seize (Gr. piazo) Jesus did so to restrain Him (cf. John 7:32; John 7:44; John 8:20; John 10:39). However they could not because His hour (Gr. hora), the time for His crucifixion and its consequences, had not yet arrived. God prevented Jesus’ premature arrest. Even though some of the Jews tried to arrest Jesus, many from the multitude believed on Him. Jesus’ presence provoked a division among His hearers (cf. John 1:11-12; John 3:18-21).

Some believed because of the signs that He had performed. This was not a strong basis for faith (cf. John 2:11; John 2:23; John 4:48). They concluded that He was the Messiah, but the common understanding of Messiah was that He would be a powerful human deliverer. Probably few if any of these Jews believed that Jesus was also God incarnate.

"But throughout this Gospel it is better to believe on the basis of miracles than not to believe at all, so there is no condemnation of this faith as inadequate." [Note: Morris, pp. 367-68.]

Verse 32

The Pharisees heard some of the Jews present voicing their belief that Jesus must be the Messiah. These comments moved them to act immediately to arrest Jesus. When the common people turned to Jesus, they turned away from the Pharisees and their teachings. Together with the chief priests, who were mainly Sadducees and not friendly to the Pharisees, they ordered the temple soldiers to seize Jesus. This attempt illustrates the seriousness of the situation as the authorities viewed it. Probably the arrest warrant came from the Sanhedrin. The temple police were Levites responsible to the Sanhedrin.

Verses 33-34

Jesus again said that His hour had not yet come, only in different words. When His hour came, He would return to the Father. The Jews would search for Him but be unable to find Him. He was going where they could not come, namely, to heaven. Death was not the end. They could not come where He was going in their present condition. That required regeneration and translation (cf. John 8:21; John 13:33).

Time was running out both for Jesus to finish His work and for the Jews to believe on Him. The Jews had only a little longer to place their faith in Him before He would leave them and depart to heaven. After that, many Jews would seek their Messiah but not find Him. That is what has been happening since Jesus ascended, and it will happen until He returns to the earth at His second coming (Zechariah 12:10-13; Revelation 1:7). Jesus was, of course, referring enigmatically to His death.

Verses 35-36

Again Jesus’ hearers thought that He was speaking of physical matters and earthly places. The Dispersion was the term that described the Jews who had scattered from Palestine and were living elsewhere in the world. They thought Jesus was referring to ministering to Jews or perhaps Gentile proselytes who were living outside Palestine. In the New Testament the word "Greek" is synonymous with Gentiles (cf. Colossians 3:11). This seemed too fantastic to be a messianic activity.

"Here, as more than once in this Gospel, the Jews are unconsciously prophesying. The departure of Jesus in death would indeed be beneficial, but not because it would remove from the earth a false Messiah, as they supposed, but because, as a result of the proclamation of the gospel which would follow His death and resurrection, Gentiles would be brought into the people of God." [Note: Tasker, p. 106.]

These Jews did not understand where Jesus was going any more than they understood where He had come from (John 7:27). They were so exclusive in their thinking that they thought it very improbable that Jesus would leave Palestine. Ironically the Christian apostles did go to those very areas and people to preach the Christ whom the Jews rejected.

Verse 37

The feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days (cf. Deuteronomy 16:13). However the day following the feast was a day of convocation that the people popularly regarded as part of the feast (cf. Leviticus 23:36). It is difficult to tell if John meant the seventh or the eighth day when he referred to "the great day of the feast." Edersheim believed it was the seventh day. [Note: Edersheim, 2:156.]

"For the rabbis ’the last day’ of the festival was the eighth day, but they never spoke of it as the greatest day. Since the water-drawing rite and the dancing in the light of the great menoras were omitted on the eighth day, the description of ’the greatest day’ is thought by many to denote the seventh day, when the priests processed around the altar with the water drawn from Siloam not once but seven times. . . . It is also to be recognized that the invitation [of Jesus] would have been equally relevant on the eighth day, which was celebrated as a Sabbath with appropriate ceremonies and was attended by a great congregation." [Note: Beasley-Murray, p. 114.]

Jesus used the occasion to make another important public proclamation (cf. John 7:28). Perhaps Jesus laid low until this day to avoid arrest and then presented Himself again publicly. He invited anyone who was thirsty spiritually to come to Him and take what would satisfy and sustain him or her (cf. John 4:10; John 4:14).

Early each of the seven mornings of the feast the high priest would lead a procession from the Pool of Siloam to the temple. Another priest would first fill a golden ewer with water from the pool. He would then carry it through the Water Gate on the south side of the temple and into the temple courtyard. There he would ceremoniously pour the water into a silver basin on the west side of the brazen altar from which it would flow through a tube to the base of the altar. Many Jews would accompany these priests. Some of them would drink from the pool while others would chant Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 12:3: "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Joyously draw water from the springs of salvation." This was such a happy occasion that the Mishnah stated, "He that never has seen the joy of the Water-drawing has never in his life seen joy." [Note: Mishnah Sukkoth 5:1.]

The priest would then pour water into the basin at the time of the morning sacrifice. Another priest would also pour the daily drink offering of wine into another basin at the same time. Then they would pour the water and the wine out before the Lord. The pouring out of water represented God’s provision of water in the wilderness in the past and His provision of refreshment and cleansing in the messianic age. The pouring out of wine symbolized God’s bestowal of His Spirit in the last days. Every male present would simultaneously shake his little bundle of willow and myrtle twigs (his lulab) with his right hand and hold a piece of citrus fruit aloft with his left hand. The twigs represented stages of the wilderness journey marked by different kinds of vegetation, and the citrus fruit symbolized the fruit of the Promised Land. [Note: Morris, p. 372.] Everyone would also cry, "Give thanks to the Lord!" three times. Worshippers in the temple courtyard would then sing the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). [Note: J. Jeremias, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v., lithos, 4:277-78; J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels, p. 348; Edersheim, 2:157-60.]

This "water rite" had become a part of the Israelites’ traditional celebration of the feast of Tabernacles. Essentially it symbolized the fertility and fruitfulness that the rain brought. In the Old Testament, God likened His blessings in the messianic kingdom to the falling of rain (Ezekiel 47:1-7; Zechariah 13:1). The Jews regarded God’s provision of water in the wilderness and rain in the land as harbingers of His great blessings on the nation under Messiah’s reign. Thus the water rite in the feast of Tabernacles had strong messianic connotations.

Jesus stood to announce His invitation. Normally rabbis sat when they taught. Therefore His standing position as well as His words stressed the importance of what He said. Jesus’ claim was even more impressive because on the eighth day no water was poured out. When Jesus called out His invitation, He was claiming to be the fulfillment of all that the feast of Tabernacles anticipated. He announced that He was the One who could provide messianic blessing, that He was the Messiah. His words compared Himself to the rock in the wilderness that supplied the needs of the Israelites.

Verses 37-44

The promise of the Spirit 7:37-44

Having announced His departure, Jesus proceeded to offer the Holy Spirit for those who believed on Him (cf. chs. 14-16).

Verse 38

Some commentators believed that the end of Jesus’ statement did not occur at the end of this verse but after "Me." [Note: E.g., Brown, 1:321.] They saw Jesus saying, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me, and drink he who believes in Me." This view results in the antecedent of "his innermost being" or "him" being Jesus rather than the believer. This view makes Jesus the source of the living water, which is biblical. However the punctuation in the NASB and NIV probably represents the better translation. [Note: See Carson, The Gospel . . ., pp. 323-25.]

The antecedent of "his innermost being" or "him" is probably the believer rather than Jesus. This does not mean that Jesus was saying that the believer was the source of the living water. The living water is a reference to the Holy Spirit elsewhere in John, and it is Jesus who pours out the Spirit as living water (John 4:14). Jesus spoke elsewhere of the living water welling up within the believer (John 4:14). The idea is not that the Spirit will flow out of the believer to other believers. We are not the source of the Spirit for others. It is rather that the Spirit from Jesus wells up within each believer and gives him or her satisfying spiritual refreshment. Water satisfies thirst and produces fruitfulness, and similarly the Spirit satisfies the inner person and enables us to bear fruit. The Greek expression is ek tes koilias autou (lit. from within his belly). The belly here pictures the center of the believer’s personality. It may imply the womb, the sphere of generation. [Note: Tasker, p. 109.]

There is no specific passage in the Old Testament that contains the same words that Jesus mentioned here. Consequently He must have been summarizing the teaching of the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 16:4; Exodus 17; Numbers 20; Nehemiah 8:5-18; Psalms 78:15-16; Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-32; Zechariah 14:8). One writer believed Jesus had Ezekiel 47:1-11 in view. [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "Rivers of Living Water-John 7:37-39," Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July-September 1979):239-48.] In these passages the ideas of the Spirit and the law sustaining God’s people as manna and water converge. Jesus claimed that He alone could provide the satisfying Spirit. This was an offer of salvation.

Verse 39

John helped his readers understand that Jesus was referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that happened after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, on the day of Pentecost (cf. John 15:26; John 16:7; Acts 1:5; Acts 1:8; Acts 2). That outpouring was something that God had not done before. It was similar to what Joel predicted He would do in the last days (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:16-21). "Those who believed in Him" includes subsequent believers as well as believers on the day of Pentecost (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). Jesus announced that the Holy Spirit would come on believers in a new way, namely, to baptize, seal, and indwell them. John frequently spoke of Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation as all part of His glorification (John 11:4; John 12:16; John 12:23; John 13:31; cf. Philippians 2:8-9). [Note: See Harris, p. 194.]

Verses 40-42

Jesus’ spectacular offer led some people to conclude that He was the promised Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; cf. Acts 3:22) or possibly the Messiah (Christ). Evidently it was His claim to provide living water as Moses provided physical water that led to their associating Jesus with one of those predicted individuals. Formerly Jesus had provided bread as Moses had provided manna (John 6:14). Apparently these Jews did not equate the Prophet with Messiah. They apparently looked for two separate individuals to come as they seem to have anticipated a suffering servant and a triumphant Messiah in two different people. Others doubted that Jesus was the Messiah because of His apparent Galilean origins. One indication that the Jews expected Messiah to appear soon is the fact that these people could refer to messianic predictions spontaneously.

"Perhaps this is another illustration of Johannine irony, for Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The very passage that convinced his critics that he could not be the Messiah was one of the strongest to prove that he was." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 87.]

Verses 43-44

These opinions divided the people then as they still do today. Some of them wanted to arrest Jesus (cf. John 7:30; John 7:32; John 8:20; John 10:39), but no one did, undoubtedly because such action was contrary to the Father’s sovereign will.

This concludes John’s account of Jesus’ teaching on this occasion.

Verses 45-46

When the officers of the temple guard returned to the Sanhedrin without Jesus, the Sanhedrin members asked why they had not arrested Him (cf. John 7:32). The officers replied that no man (Gr. anthropos, emphatic in the Greek text) had ever spoken as Jesus did (cf. John 7:15). They, too, spoke more truly than they knew. Jesus was more than a man. Jesus’ authority and wisdom obviously impressed them as well as the other people. They had gone to arrest Jesus with their weapons, but Jesus had arrested them with His words.

It may seem unusual that these officers would so weakly admit that they had failed in their mission, but they were not hardened Roman soldiers who carried out their orders as automatons. They were Levites whose interests were mainly religious. Their statement is another witness to the true identity of Jesus.

Verses 45-52

3. The unbelief of the Jewish leaders 7:45-52

Verses 47-48

The Pharisaic leaders implied that the officers were ignorant, that none of the real thinkers and leaders in the nation had accepted Jesus. The rulers were the Sanhedrin members, and the Pharisees were the official teachers. They implied that all the leaders without exception believed that Jesus was a deceiver, but that was not true. Already Nicodemus had privately voiced his belief that Jesus was a teacher who had come from God (John 3:2), and many others of the leaders believed in Jesus (cf. John 12:42). This was a clear case of intimidation. Again John’s irony is apparent. The proudly wise were clearly the fools (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Verse 49

The rulers claimed knowledge of the law that was superior to that of the common people (Gr. ochlos, crowd or mob) who accepted Jesus. They condescendingly judged the officers’ opinion of Jesus as worthy only of the uneducated. The rabbis taught, "It is forbidden to have mercy on one who has no knowledge." [Note: Midr. Sam 5.9 (cited by Beasley-Murray, p. 120).] If more of these leaders had taken the time to listen to Jesus, as Nicodemus did, they may have formed a different opinion of how well He fulfilled the law. Pride in one’s knowledge often results in spiritual blindness. The mob was supposedly under God’s curse since they did not obey it (Deuteronomy 28:15). Really it was the leaders who were under His curse for not believing in Jesus (John 3:36).

Verses 50-51

All this blind prejudice became more than Nicodemus could bear. Finally he questioned condemning Jesus out of hand without first listening to Him (cf. Acts 5:34-39). He did not defend Jesus. That may have been too threatening. He did raise an objection to his colleagues’ procedure on the grounds of fair play (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16-17). Nicodemus’ word of caution does not necessarily indicate that he had become a believer in Jesus, though he may have been (cf. John 19:38-39). The most we can say is that he was willing to defend Jesus’ rights.

Verse 52

Nicodemus’ colleagues did not reply rationally but emotionally. They had already decided Jesus’ case without hearing Him. They did not want to listen to any information that might prove that He was who He claimed to be. They replied to Nicodemus’ challenge with contempt and accused him of being a despised Galilean himself since he sought to defend a Galilean. Unable to refute the logic of Nicodemus’ argument they attacked his person, an old debating tactic designed to win an argument but not necessarily to arrive at the truth.

It is unclear if they meant that no prophet ever came from Galilee or that the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15) would not come from there. Obviously Jonah and Nahum had come from Galilee, so it seems unlikely that they meant that. Moses did not predict where the Prophet would come from. As mentioned above, the Jews of Jesus’ day seem to have regarded the Prophet and Messiah as two different individuals. The messianic Son of David would come from Bethlehem, but where would the Prophet come from? If the Sanhedrin had taken the trouble to investigate Jesus’ origins thoroughly, they would have discovered than He had not come from Galilee originally.

People still let prejudice (prejudging) and superficial evaluation blind them to the truth.

4. The woman caught in adultery 7:53-8:11

The textual authenticity of this pericope is highly questionable. Most ancient Greek manuscripts dating before the sixth century do not contain it. However, over 900 ancient manuscripts do contain it including the important early so-called Western text (uncial D). We have about 24,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament or parts of it. This number, by the way, contrasts strongly with the number of early copies of the writings of other ancient writers. For example, we have about 643 copies of the writings of Homer, 8 of Herodotus, 9 of Euripides, 8 of Thucydides, 7 of Plato, 49 of Aristotle, and 20 of Tacitus. Furthermore, the earliest copy of the New Testament that we have dates about 125 years after its composition whereas the earliest copy of one of the extrabiblical writings referred to above dates about 400 years after its composition.

None of the church fathers or early commentators referred to this story in their comments on this Gospel. Instead they passed from John 7:52 right on to John 8:12. Several later manuscripts identify it as special by using an asterisk or obelus at its beginning and ending. An obelus is a straight horizontal stroke either simple or with a dot above and another below it. Writers of ancient manuscripts used obeli to mark a spurious, corrupt, doubtful, or superfluous word or passage. Some old copies have this pericope after John 7:36 or John 7:44 or John 21:25 or Luke 21:38. Its expressions and constructions are more similar to Luke’s writings than they are to John’s. [Note: For a discussion of the evidence, see Hoskyns, pp. 563-64; B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 219-22. For an alternative view, see Zane C. Hodges, "The Woman Taken in Adultery (John 7:53-8:11): The Text," Bibliotheca Sacra 136:544 (October-December 1979):318-32.]

"This entire section, John 7:53 to John 8:11, traditionally known as the pericope adulterae, is not contained in the earliest and best MSS [manuscripts] and was almost certainly not an original part of the Gospel of John. Among modern commentators and textual critics, it is a foregone conclusion that the section is not original but represents a later addition to the text of the Gospel." [Note: The Net Bible note on 7:53.]

The event described here may have occurred, though the passage may represent a conflation of two different accounts (cf. John 21:25). [Note: See Bart D. Ehrman, "Jesus and the Adulteress," New Testament Studies 34 (1988):24-44.] Perhaps it was a piece of oral tradition that later scribes inserted here to illustrate the sinfulness of the Jewish leaders (cf. John 7:24; John 8:15; John 8:46).

"It may be accepted as historical truth; but based on the information we now have, it was probably not a part of the original text." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 89.]

Then did the Holy Spirit inspire it? Probably He did not. It is similar to some of the apocryphal stories, which some Christian traditions accept as inspired but which others do not. How should the modern Christian use this story? Some expositors do not preach or teach the passage publicly because they believe it is uninspired. However other Christians disagree and accept it as equally authoritative as the rest of Scripture. Roman Catholics accept it because it was in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation (late fourth century A.D.), which they regard as authoritative.

If I do not believe it was part of the inspired text of John’s Gospel, why have I bothered to expound it below? I have done so because most English Bibles contain this pericope, and many Christians have questions about it. It is possible that, though not a part of John’s original Gospel, the Holy Spirit inspired it, though this view has problems connected with it.

Verse 53

This verse suggests that the story that follows was originally the continuation of another narrative. "Everyone" apparently refers to people at a gathering in Jerusalem. This could refer to the Sanhedrin and the officers mentioned in John 7:45-52. However it could also refer to other people on a different occasion.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/john-7.html. 2012.
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